Chaplain assistants: 106 years promoting readiness

By Sgt. Maj. Pamela A. Wilson, U.S. Army Installation Management Command Chaplain Sgt. Maj.December 28, 2015

Pamela A. Wilson, U.S. Army Installation Management Command Chaplain Sgt. Maj.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Commentary from Sgt. Maj. Pamela A. Wilson, IMCOM Chaplain Sgt. Maj.

I have researched a long lineage of proud chaplain assistants who have helped to shape who we are as a small military occupational specialty.

IMCOM integrates and delivers base support to enable readiness for a self-reliant and globally-responsive All Volunteer Army. Similarly, chaplain assistants promote readiness on our installations by providing religious support to the senior commander on the post. The chaplain assistants are invaluable contributors to the success of the command mission and the morale, resilience and strength of each unit in our Army.

The most inspiring former chaplain's assistant is songwriter and record producer Berry Gordy, who served overseas as a chaplain assistant during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. He played the organ and drove the chaplain to the front lines of battle. Eventually he founded Motown Records in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959.

Gordy inspired me because he used his incredible musical talent to assist the chaplain just as chaplain assistants today leverage their talents outside of the scope of their responsibilities to increase the capabilities of the team. He established a billion-dollar empire by promoting and developing promising singers. Today chaplain assistants use their team-building skills to help develop Soldiers for commanders and command sergeants major.

Another inspiring chaplain assistant is J. Timothy Caldwell. He wrote "The Chaplain's Assistant: God, Country and Vietnam," which is a novel about a fictional Army chaplain assistant and his experiences in Vietnam. Caldwell conceived of the book idea during the Gulf War (1990-1991) and relied on his personal journal which he wrote while he served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict.

Caldwell inspires me because through his writing, he is able to clearly demonstrate the chaplain assistant's ability to serve as training developers and combat integration development writers that results in writing the tasks, conditions and standards used to train our warriors.

As I thought about the theme for this year's celebration, I reflected on the vision our Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. General Paul Hurley, articulated during his senior leader training forum. He encouraged his leaders to keep the focus by "Proving Religious Support to Soldiers and Families."

We have proudly accepted this focus as our theme in 2015 as we remember the many ways that chaplain assistants do this every day. Our chaplain assistants, past and present, continue to serve with honor and distinction around the globe.

In the Religious Support Operations office at Headquarters, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, Michael Swingler serves proudly as Chief of Religious Support. Swingler is a retired chaplain assistant sergeant major. Glenn Coe serves as the chief of operations. Coe is a retired chaplain assistant sergeant first class. Judith Pukansky is a retired chaplain assistant master sergeant. Budget Analyst Melissa Reid served the Army as a chaplain assistant as a staff sergeant. Serving on active duty are Sgts. 1st Class Ledezma Norberto Diaz and Anderson Joseph, who both continue to raise the bar in providing excellence throughout Installation Management Command.

On Dec. 28, 1909, the Army officially created the position of chaplain assistant, authorizing soldiers to provide full-time religious support. The War Department's General Order No. 253 simply read, "One enlisted man will be detailed on special duty, by the commanding officer of any organization to which a chaplain is assigned for duty, for the purpose of assisting the chaplain in the performance of his official duties."

Throughout the Army, there are many successful chaplain assistants still serving faithfully every day. Proudly and together, we are celebrating 106 years since the Army officially introduced the occupational specialty. We are helping Soldiers exercise their constitutional right to practice their faith, whatever it is, wherever they may be.

For this year, I want to acknowledge and thank chaplain assistants for promoting readiness in IMCOM's Atlantic Region, serving at: Aberdeen Proving Ground; Picatinny and Redstone Arsenals; The United States Military Academy at West Point; Forts Belvoir, Benning, Bragg, Campbell, Detrick, Drum, Gordon, Hamilton, Jackson, Knox, Lee, Meade, Rucker and Stewart; Joint Bases Langley-Eustis and Myer-Henderson Hall; and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. They serve in Central Region at: Dugway Proving Ground; U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hunter Liggett; U.S. Southern Command; The Presidio of Monterey; White Sands Missile Range; Yuma Proving Ground; Forts Bliss, Carson, Hood, Huachuca, Irwin, Leavenworth, Leonard Wood, McCoy, Polk, Riley, and Sill; and Joint Bases Lewis-McChord and San Antonio. In the Pacific Region, they serve at: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson; U.S. Army Garrisons Hawaii and Japan; Forts Greeley and Wainwright; U.S. Army Garrisons Daegu, Humphreys, Red Cloud, and Yongsan; and Army Support Activity Sato Cano Air Base. In the Europe Region they serve in: U.S. Army Garrisons Ansbach, Benelux (Schinnen and Brussels), Bavaria (Grafenwoehr, Hohenfels, Garmisch, and Rheinland-Pfalz at Baumholder) Stuttgart, Italy (Vicenza and Livorno) and Wiesbaden.

Take a moment to thank chaplain assistants in your area for a job well done.